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Undergraduate Programme Philosophy

Philosophy


Students enrolled in the philosophy major are required to complete a total of 12 courses (48 credits) in philosophy, along with 4 courses (12 credits) in complementary subjects relevant to their philosophical work. Graduating from the program requires the successful completion of 84 credits spread across Major and Common Curriculum courses.

After the first year, students who fulfil the requirements can also apply for the Honours programme. This will involve philosophical research, with advanced-level coursework and a supervised thesis project, together worth 12 additional credits.

Courses

Introduction to philosophy

This course aims to equip students with the core philosophical capacities, especially working with others you disagree with, clarity of expression, and foundations for rigorous creativity. It introduces students to central issues in major areas of philosophy: epistemology, metaphysics, and value theory. Thus, students will have an introduction to these areas of philosophy, and will get to hone their philosophical capacities in those areas.

Paradoxes

In this course, we consider different paradoxes each week. Students will be introduced to a range of formal techniques in the statement of the paradox, or in their proposed solutions. Formal techniques will include: propositional calculus, predicate calculus, modal logic and set theory. Unlike other philosophy programmes, we have no formal logic course. This course equips students with the same capacity to learn and to handle formal languages. By introducing these formal systems as tools to solve specific problems, it enables students to have a broader range of formal systems at their disposal, and gives them the capacity to evaluate which (and whether) a particular formal system is appropriate for the problem before them. Students will learn to work together to innovate solutions to these problems. It also equips students with the necessary understanding of formal languages to read the philosophical work they will encounter in other courses.

Ethical reasoning

In this course, we take an applied approach to ethical reasoning. The course starts with close examinations of real cases of ethical issues, such as the Bhopal tragedy, the South African Truth and Reconciliation commission etc. Students will be helped to develop the capability to expose and evaluate normative presuppositions. The course then considers rival systems of ethical reasoning to evaluate normative presuppositions. Having been equipped with a deep understanding of different approaches to evaluating norms, students will return at the end of the course to examinations of real cases. Thus, this course starts and ends with specific case studies. We think that this unusually applied approach to teaching ethics will best equip students with the capability to evaluate normative claims in real world contexts, and will help foster a disposition to public service.

Philosophy of science

This course focuses on scientific thought. Its two special aims are to enable students to rigorously engage with, and critically evaluate, scientific work. In the first part of the course students will consider recent ideas from epistemology of science. They then will apply their philosophical capabilities to Quantum Mechanics, evaluating different interpretations of it. They will read the original research papers from Einstein, Bohr etc. We chose Quantum Mechanics because we think that understanding and critically evaluating a theory with such social prestige is the most effective way of enabling students to overcome the idea that science is too difficult to engage with. Experience has shown that students without a science background can understand the formalism of Quantum Mechanics, and can make incisive and rigorous critical evaluations of its various interpretations. Finally, the students will study recent ideas in development economics. For example, they may be asked to critically evaluate the use of randomized controlled trials in development economics, and contrast it with a more traditional, model-building approach. The special aim of this part of the course is to equip students with the capability of understanding and evaluating the latest social science research, and to be able to evaluate whether the latest ideas in social sciences are passing fads or are well grounded. We expect that such a capability will be of direct application to many of our students after graduation. As in earlier parts of the course, students will be expected to work with original research papers since we think this will best prepare them for the broadest range of work in public service. For these reasons, we think that this approach is much better suited to developing the sorts of capabilities described above than a traditional epistemological approach.

Political philosophy

The special aim of this course is to give students the capability of understanding and working with supporters of each of the major political views in India. To achieve this, students will work through the ideas of Marxism, Nationalism, and Liberalism etc. as they appeared during the time of the Constituent Assembly Debates in India. Students will then work out how these views affect political issues in the contemporary context, such as concerns of citizenship amendment, changes in the tax system, environmental concerns around urban lake conservation, etc. This focus on applying political thought directly to the Indian context best suits the aims of the major, and the foundation.

Aesthetics

This course introduces students to reflection on the aesthetic dimension of human experience and to critical engagement with the works of art in the visual, performative and literary mediums. It seeks to train students in thinking philosophically about the nature of art and its relation to other human experiences. The focus of the course is on developing capabilities and skills in students to (i) cultivate appreciation of philosophical deliberation on the nature of beauty and art; (ii) develop the ability to interpret and evaluate works of art; (iii) critically engage with key thinkers and analyze aesthetic theories, and articulate responses to them and (iv) problematize the relationship between art and society, and the intersection of aesthetics with ethics and politics.

Philosophy of measurement

Measurements have normative presuppositions, and there are normative implications of using them. We ignore these implications at our peril. The increasing use of measurements in policy and other parts of the social sector requires careful evaluation. In this course, students will gain the capability of identifying and evaluating the ethical presuppositions of different measurements through detailed case studies of GINI coefficient, QUALYs and the UN development index. To evaluate these with sufficient rigor, we will equip them with decision theory and measurement theory, a working knowledge of set theory and Bayesian statistics, and an understanding of measures crucial to further work in big data. The course will combine these practical and epistemological capabilities with ideas from politics and ethics, such as Sen and Nussbaum’s capabilities approach. The course will afford students taking the economics stream as an opportunity to draw deeper connections with their philosophical thinking.

The self

This course pioneers the bringing together of insights from two traditions on the questions of self: analytic philosophy and Indian philosophy. For example, students will study Hume’s theory of personal identity alongside Shantideva’s version of anatman. They will learn to work with original texts (translations where required) and develop the capability to draw ideas from one tradition to solve problems that arise in another, along with the practiced ability of identifying and resolving problems that arise in such cross-tradition work.

Philosophy of religion

The special aim of this course is to give students the capability of understanding and working with others from any of the major religions of India. Students should be able to understand the differences and similarities between those religions, engage with the language and ideas of each of them, and understand how they influence people’s outlooks. The course will focus on philosophy of religion, rather than its sociology; the primary aim is to understand and engage with these religious ideas rather than to study them as social phenomena. We expect that this course will also be an opportunity for students to practice working with those who strongly disagree on difficult issues.

Philosophy of resistance and non-violence

When is civil-disobedience permissible? Is non-violence morally required? Is it morally justifiable? This course develops the ideas from the political philosophy course. It focuses on philosophical examination of these issues based on in-depth case studies of movements from outside India. Students will work with the latest empirical studies about non-violence and apply their views in political philosophy, epistemology and metaphysics.

Philosophy of the environment

Who is to blame for climate change? What exactly is reduction of biodiversity, and why is it bad? Is damage to the environment bad only because of its effects on humans, or does ethics reach beyond humanity? How should we change our political systems to take into account the rights of non-human animals? The range of pressing philosophical questions of the environment has recently produced an outburst of rigorous work in philosophy of environment. In this course, students will join and take forward the discussion.

The course forms a capstone, bringing together the different parts of philosophy students have studied: ethics, politics, epistemology and metaphysics. It also serves the three aims of the major equally: students will be required to use rigorous creativity to produce their own views in this new area of study, they will be applying their philosophical capabilities to a specific and important area directly relevant to the aims of the Azim Premji Foundation, and they will build on work which draws on both analytic and Indian traditions.

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Faculty

Abhishek Kashyap
Philosophy of Science
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Asim Siddiqui
Ph.D. Philosophy of Education (Manipal Centre for Philosophy and Humanities)
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Kit Patrick
Ph.D. Philosophy of Science
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